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Jones Has Blithe Debut at Manchester Exchange

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The new autumn/winter season at the Royal Exchange Theatre (RET) in Manchester will include the world premiere of Simon Stephens’ latest play Punk Rock as well as classic revivals of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, starring David Schofield as Archie Rice, Moliere’s The Miser led by Derek Griffiths and Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit with Whatsonstage.com Award winner Suranne Jones. Other highlights include a month-long performance project which will see The Studio turned into a working pub.

The season begins with The Miser – Moliere’s classic comedy of manners – from Wednesday 2 September to Saturday 3 October 2009. The production marks the return of guest director Helena Kaut-Howson. Her previous RET credits include Mrs Warren's Profession and The Taming Of The Shrew. Derek Griffiths plays miserly Harpagon. His previous Exchange credits include The Recruiting Officer and Loot.

The world premiere production of Simon Stephens’ latest drama Punk Rock continues the season from Wednesday 7 October to Saturday 31 October 2009.

Like Stephen's widely acclaimed On the Shore of the Wide World, (which headed for the National) Punk Rock is also opening in London, premiering at the Lyric Hammersmith September before transferring to Manchester (See News, 3 Jun 2009).

RET joint artistic director Sarah Frankcom directs this powerful story set in the library of a Manchester grammar school, as a disparate group of sixth-formers prepare for their mock-A Levels. Stephens is one the country’s most exciting young playwrights. His other work includes the highly acclaimed Pornography seen at last year’s Edinburgh Festival and being revived at London’s Tricycle Theatre later this year. He is also renewing his relationship with the Exchange which has previously premiered his plays Port and On The Shore Of The Wide World.

Acclaimed stage, TV and film actor David Schofield returns to the Royal Exchange after a break of 17 years to play failed song-and-dance man Archie Rice in John Osborne’s scathing 1957 classic The Entertainer from Wednesday 4 November to Saturday 5 December 2009.

The story centres on third-rate music hall artiste Archie, who is about to celebrate the twenty-first anniversary of the last time he paid income tax. Schofield has many previous RET credits which include The Crucible, The Beggar's Opera and Blues For Mister Charlie. RET joint artistic director Greg Hersov directs the production. His recent RET credits include The Tempest with Pete Postlethwaite, Hay Fever, Antigone and Widowers' Houses.

The Exchange is set for a spirited festive season with a new production of the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit from Wednesday 9 December 2009 to Saturday 23 January 2010.

Coward’s romp is set in the world of socialite and novelist Charles Condomine, who is haunted by the ghost of his first wife Elvira. She appears following a séance held by the engagingly eccentric clairvoyant Madame Arcati and causes havoc with her continuous attempts to disrupt Charles’ marriage to second wife Ruth.

Best known for her regular role as Karen McDonald in Coronation Street, Suranne Jones plays Ruth, marking her Exchange debut. Her stage credits elsewhere include The Newspaper Boy, A Few Good Men opposite Rob Lowe in the West End (for which she won a Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Supporting Actress) and the touring production of Terms of Endearment (alongside Linda Gray).

The production is directed by Sarah Frankcom, whose many previous credits include The Children's Hour, Three Sisters and the RET’s hugely popular 2008 Christmas show See How They Run.

The season closes with a major revival of iconic American drama A Raisin in The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry from Wednesday 27 January to Saturday 20 February 2010.

Guest director Michael Buffong (last at the Exchange to direct All The Ordinary Angels) directs this powerful story of a struggling African-American family being raised in a crowded apartment on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. The play follows the Younger family as they struggle to find a better and more comfortable lifestyle. It records their frustrations as they try to rise above their lower-class roots and to find success in a predominantly white America despite the racial and social prejudice that continues to weigh them down.

The new season will also see The Studio at the Royal Exchange transform in Pub – a realistic working pub with space to showcase many of the performances which have defined The Studio over the past ten years. These include a range of community and education events, Blue, new writing and work with emerging artists and trainee directors.

And the line-up is completed with the world premiere of Salt by Fiona Peek - the joint first prize-winning play from the most recent Bruntwood Playwriting Competition – in The Studio from Wednesday 3 February to Saturday 20 February 2010. Associate director Jo Combes directs this new play, where each scene takes place during a different course of a different meal shared between four old friends.

Studio audiences can also look forward to some of the most imaginative small-scale national touring companies as part of the The Studio’s Autumn – Winter 2009. For more details, visit the Royal Exchange website.

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